Close-up of hand shutting off a power strip to reduce vampire load

Have you heard about the slow drain on your electricity from appliances, known as “vampire loads,” “phantom loads,” or “standby energy drain”? These are the oh-so-scary loads of electricity that our electronic devices and appliances suck out of outlets even when we don’t have them turned on. According to, as much as 10% of residential electricity usage is due to electronics that consume energy when we aren’t even using them.

Join us in celebrating “Energyween” with Scare off those wasteful vampire loads and save energy.

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Audit Your Outlets for Vampire Loads

Anything that has a display, clock, timer, memory, remote, or that lets off heat is using electricity all the time it’s plugged in — even if it’s turned off. Consider if you need that item ready to use all the time or not.

Go through every room in your house and consider each electrical outlet and what it’s powering. You will find many items that don’t need to be plugged in all the time and are using energy without your permission. Consider unplugging these items until you need them again:

  • Baby wipe warmers
  • Lotion warmers
  • Clocks in guest rooms
  • Nightlights that automatically illuminate during the day
  • Game consoles
  • Printers and shredders
  • Coffee makers with lights and readouts

You don’t necessarily need to unplug everything, you may be able to just flip a power switch. Electronics that you can truly turn off — such as computer monitors and speakers, towel warmers, lights, toasters, or toaster ovens — can just be turned off. Most of these appliances do not use energy after you turn off the power switch. For the ones that do, there’s an easy solution: power strips.

Use a Power Strip

A power strip with a switch controls whether the items plugged in are consuming electricity or not. It can be helpful to use a power strip for devices you often use together, like the electronics in your entertainment center. When you’re done using them, you can shut off all vampire power with one switch. Some smart power strips go one step further by automatically shutting down power to electronics in standby mode — you don’t even have to remember to switch off the power strip.

Avoid Unnecessarily Charging Batteries

Many of us have battery-powered devices and tools that we leave sitting on the charger, plugged in, and using electricity all the time. But does your electric toothbrush need to be constantly recharging? Most can last for weeks without charging, so the answer is likely a big no. The same goes for water picks, power tools, tablets, remote control cars, walkie-talkies, charged vacuums, and mobile phones.

Most electrically charged items do not need to be at 100% capacity all the time. Plug in the device before use to let it charge. Or charge it when the battery is nearly empty. Consider this minor inconvenience a small sacrifice for Team Planet.

Use Technology to Avoid Electricity Waste

There are many apps that you can use to alert you to your energy usage. Also, check out the Sense and Kill A Watt energy monitors to help track your electricity drain.

Research Before You Purchase

When purchasing new appliances, electronics, or anything that plugs into an outlet, first consider the item’s energy requirements. Read up on the ENERGY STAR website about the best-rated products for energy efficiency before you make your next purchase.

Originally published on October 28, 2020, this article was updated in October 2022.

By Maureen Wise

Maureen Wise is a freelance writer for a number of green-leaning companies and organizations. She also is a sustainability consultant and previously worked in higher education sustainability and watershed restoration. Wise serves on the board of an arts and environment nonprofit, is a solar owner, and is a certified master recycler. Wise writes eco-mysteries under the pen name Iris March.